Book Recommendation ~ Unnoticed by Amanda Deed

Book Description:

Plain Jane O’Reilly is good at being unnoticed. Detested by her stepmother and teased by her stepsisters, Jane has learned the art of avoiding attention. That is until Price Moreland, an American with big dreams, arrives in her small town.

Does she dare to hope someone might notice her?

However, Price Moreland may not be the prince that the whole town thinks him to be. Was his desire to be a missionary a God-given call, or just a good excuse to run from his past?

Complete with an evil stepmother, a missing shoe and a grand ball, Unnoticed takes the time-old Cinderella fairy tale and gives it an Australian twist.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I’m a fan of the Cinderella romance trope and enjoyed reading Unnoticed. The story is set in the 1870’s in Hay, a small Australian town in the western Riverina region of NSW.

Jane O’Reilly is your classic Cinderella heroine. She lost her beloved mother when she was young and her father remarried a woman with two daughters. Jane’s stepmother has no qualms about treating Jane as if she is a second class citizen and her personal slave. Jane’s father seems to turn a blind eye to his wife’s blatant favouritism of her own daughters over Jane.

Jane has very low self esteem that’s reinforced by the horrible treatment she receives from her stepmother and stepsisters. Her Aunt Ruby, who is their cook and her stepmother’s sister, is one of the few people who treats Jane with respect and dignity.

Forced by her stepmother to dress in old and ugly clothing, the townsfolk of Hay call her ‘Plain Jane’ and treat her as if she’s the town joke. Jane believes she’s ugly and feels powerless to change her life circumstances.

Price Moreland is an American who recently moved to Hay. He sets up a Barber and Dental Surgery in town but his main goal is to share the gospel with the unchurched townsfolk in Hay.  He has a complicated relationship with his wealthy rancher father and is troubled by his experiences of living in the south during the American Civil War.

Price meets Jane when she turns up at his dental surgery with an infected tooth. He’s the prince charming who is intrigued by Jane and sees both her inner and outer beauty. Jane struggles to believe she can be worthy of Price. They become friends and a sweet romance develops between them as they overcome many obstacles in the story.

Their spiritual journeys are explored and the faith element in the story is both overt and compelling. Price and Jane are challenged on a spiritual level and draw on Biblical truths to resolve their faith issues.

The story addresses social issues of inequality and racism in both Australia and the USA. My husband has Chinese ancestors who migrated to Australia during the 1850’s Gold Rush and lived in the Riverina region of NSW.  My personal connection to the setting added to my interest in the social class dynamics in the story.

I recommend Unnoticed to readers who like historical Christian romances set in Australia.

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Book Recommendation ~ Springtime of the Spirit by Maureen Lang

Book Description:

By the fall of 1918, the Great War has ended and the world is at peace, but there is little to celebrate in Germany. After four years of fighting for his homeland, Christophe Brecht returns to find there is little left of what he once called home. So when family friends ask him to travel to Munich to bring back their runaway daughter, Christophe agrees.

When he finally locates Annaliese Duray, he discovers she is far different from the girl he once knew. Headstrong, idealistic, and beautiful, she is on the front lines of the city’s political scene, fighting to give women and working-class citizens a voice in Germany’s new government.

As the political upheaval ignites in Munich, so does the attraction between Annaliese and Christophe. With an army from Berlin threatening to squash everything Annaliese has worked for, both she and Christophe are forced to choose between love and loyalty.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Springtime of the Spirit is the third book in Maureen Lang’s The Great War series. A spirited and poignant love story set in Germany in 1918 during the politically turbulent months following the end of the First World War.

Annaliese Duray is from a wealthy family who live in a small town outside Munich, and her capitalist father has benefited financially from the war by building weapons in his factory. After the death of her beloved sister and Germany’s crushing defeat by the Allies, Annaliese runs away from her family. She disappears in Munich, determined to help create a better future for Germany.

The socialist revolution, arising during a time of high unemployment and food shortages, brings Eisner to power and Annaliese joins the socialist party. Within weeks she becomes a political voice for the rights of women. Keeping her privileged background a secret, she speaks passionately in the streets to the working class crowds, espousing socialist values of equality and the evils of capitalism.

Christophe Brecht is a disillusioned Major from the German Army who returns from France to discover his homeland has been changed by the war. He finds his family’s home abandoned and a note from his sister. His brother died fighting in the war, his parent’s are now deceased and his sister has moved to America.

Annaliese’s older sister, Giselle, was Christophe’s first love. After learning of Giselle’s death, he visits her heartbroken parents. They enlist his help in finding Annaliese in Munich and bringing her home before they leave Germany and move to America.

A fascinating story unfolds as Christophe finds Annaliese and tries to convince her to return home with him and reconcile with her parents. Annaliese has rejected her childhood faith and, as the political upheaval and danger intensifies around them, she is challenged by Christophe’s beliefs that are in conflict with her new socialist ideology.

Springtime of the Spirit is an amazing story of love and hope during a politically unstable time in Germany’s history. The characters are passionate in their political beliefs that also shape their decisions in their personal lives. The exciting political backdrop adds an extra element of danger and intrigue to the story. The heartache and desperation of a nation economically crippled by war is captured in the story and the character’s motivations and desire for change is realistically depicted. I recommend Springtime of the Spirit for those interested in political ideologies and looking for an exciting historical romance set during a time of significant social change.

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Book Recommendation ~ Whisper on the Wind by Maureen Lang


Book Description:

In Brussels at the height of WWI, a small, underground newspaper is the only thing offering the occupied city hope—and real news of the war. The paper may be a small whisper amid the shouts of the German army, but Edward Kirkland will do anything to keep it in print. Meanwhile, Isa Lassone, a Belgian-American socialite whose parents whisked her to safety at the start of the war, sneaks back into the country to rescue those dearest to her: Edward and his mother. But Edward refuses to go, and soon Isa is drawn into his secret life printing the newspaper . . . And into his heart.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

Whisper on the Wind is the second book in Maureen Lang’s The Great War series. A powerful and gripping love story set in Belgium during the First World War.

Isa Lassone, daughter of a Belgium father and American mother, is a wealthy socialite who escapes with her family to America before the German occupation of Belgium in 1914. She leaves behind Edward Kirkland, the boy she has always loved, and his mother, who looked after Isa when her parents were too busy with their own lives to worry about their daughter. In 1916 Isa makes the perilous trek back across the border with the financial means to rescue Edward and his family.

Edward survives a German work camp, is assumed dead, and uses different aliases in his pursuit to liberate Belgium. He is involved in an extensive secret network that prints and distributes the underground newspaper La Libre Belgique.

Edward refuses to leave Belgium and Isa reclaims her stately family home in Brussels which is now occupied by an injured German Major. Isa and Edward’s mother move into a separate part of the house and are forced to co-exist with the Major. Isa insists on helping Edward, despite the massive personal risks if her involvement is discovered by the Germans.

An exciting tale unfolds as danger lurks in unexpected places and no one can be trusted. The German Imperial Army is determined to close down the paper and punish those involved. Edward’s weak faith is challenged and his growing relationship with Isa seems impossible since they are from different worlds and living under dire circumstances.

Whisper on the Wind is a heart wrenching and beautiful story of love and hope. The courageous characters undertake enormous personal risks in their pursuit of freedom. Loyalties are tested, and the faith of characters on both sides of the war are challenged as they deal with injustice and are torn apart by loyalty to their country and loved ones. The brutality of war isn’t glossed over in this realistic portrayal of characters dealing with the poverty, desperation and hardship of war. I recommend Whisper on the Wind for those looking for an exciting and thought provoking historical romance.

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Book Recommendation ~ An Heiress at Heart by Jennifer Delamere

Book Description:

A New Beginning

A youthful indiscretion has cost Lizzie Poole more than just her honor. After five years living in exile, she’s finally returning home, but she’s still living a secret life. Her best friend Ria’s dying wish was for Lizzie to assume her identity, return to London, and make amends that Ria herself would never live to make. Bearing a striking resemblance to her friend, and harboring more secrets than ever before, Lizzie embarks on a journey that tempts her reckless heart once again . . .

A committed clergyman, Geoffrey Somerville’s world is upended when he suddenly inherits the title of Lord Somerville. Now he’s invited to every ball and sought after by the matchmaking mothers of London society. Yet the only woman to capture his heart is the one he cannot have: his brother’s young widow, Ria. Duty demands he deny his feelings, but his heart longs for the mysterious beauty. With both their futures at stake, will Lizzie be able to keep up her façade? Or will she find the strength to share her secret and put her faith in true love?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I really enjoyed reading this book and liked the Aussie connection in the story. Lizzie is a fascinating character who made unwise choices in London that led her to seek refuge in Bathurst, Australia. Lizzie meets Ria in Australia and their uncanny physical resemblance raises a number of questions in the story. Lizzie fulfils Ria’s dying wish by returning to London and assuming Ria’s identity. What Lizzie doesn’t count on is falling in love with Geoffrey, Ria’s brother-in-law who she can’t legally marry while continuing to impersonate Ria.

Geoffrey had never met the real Ria in person, but I did question why Ria’s relatives seemed to easily accept that Lizzie was Ria. My questions were answered in an exciting and satisfying ending. The faith element in the story was more understated than in many inspirational romances and themes of honesty and integrity were addressed as Lizzie dealt with the consequences of her deception. I recommend this book to those looking for a fun and intriguing historical romance.

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a review copy.

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Book Recommendation ~ Stealing Jake by Pam Hillman

Book Description:

When Livy O’Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she’s helping to run an orphanage. Now she’ll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.

Sheriff’s deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy—literally—while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town—as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off—Jake doesn’t have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can’t seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn’t willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I really liked the story premise and enjoyed reading this book. Livy is an intriguing character with a heart of gold. Her faith helps her overcome her difficult childhood. She has a genuine desire to help the orphans and street kids who have appeared in her small town. Livy is drawn to Jake, despite fearing he will discover the truth about her past.

Jake struggles to understand why Livy has a soft spot for the street kids, who seem to be the source of trouble in the town. Explosive secrets are revealed that take Jake and Livy on a dangerous journey to seek the truth and bring justice to the town of Chestnut, Illinois. I highly recommend this book to those looking for a fast paced and beautifully plotted historical romance.

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Book Recommendation: Yesterday’s Tomorrow by Catherine West


Book Description:

She’s after the story that might get her the Pulitzer.
He’s determined to keep his secrets to himself.

Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father’s memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother’s wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he’s hiding something.

Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they’re forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I loved reading this book, and I couldn’t put it down. Kristin and Luke are fascinating and complex characters who struggle with a number of issues. They are thrown together in an intense and dire situation, and live each day not knowing if it will be their last. They are flawed people who must cope with the extreme pressures of war. As a result, their relationship evolves in a different direction to the typical Christian romance.

Yesterday’s Tomorrow provides a realistic portrayal of life in Vietnam during the war. The story addresses the hardship faced by people who served their country without receiving honour and recognition back home. I highly recommend this book to those looking for an authentic and powerful romance set during the Vietnam War.

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Book Recommendation ~ Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Book Description:

California’s gold country, 1850. Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. What she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside. Then she meets Michael Hosea. A man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything, Michael obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation until, despite her resistance, her heart begins to thaw. But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. So Angel runs. Back to the darkness… A powerful retelling of the book of Hosea, Redeeming Love is a life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love. A page-turner.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I love this book, and I’ve read it more than once. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is an award winning historical romance that has featured on Christian fiction bestseller lists for years. Francine’s writing is both beautiful and powerful as her characters retell the little known Biblical story of Hosea and Gomer. If you’ve never read Christian fiction and like reading romance, I highly recommend you start by reading Redeeming Love.

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